A Biography of Nicholas A. Sholler, MD
by Bill Balamaci
The Society Farsarotul presented its 1992 Distinguished Service Award to one of our most beloved leaders, Nicholas A. Sholler, MD, at our 89th Anniversary Celebration, held on June 13th, 1992 at the Fairfield University Oak Room.
The son of Andrea and Vasila Vanghele Shola, Nicholas A. Sholler was born in Korce, Albania. Variants of his family name in Europe included Shola, Shollicu, Sholla, and Schiola. His grandfather, Athanas, was an Ottoman government administrator for Vlachs in the Ochrida Episcopate in what is now the Republic of Macedonia. His great grandfather, Nicola, son of Constantine, was born in Almyros (now in Greece) in 1792.
The family earned a comfortable living transporting goods by caravan from Ochrida to Constantinople. They also prospered from the sale of wool, skins, cheese, and milk from their herd of 600 sheep. Like many of their peers, they had a summer home in the mountains. His grandmother, Vasila, would impress house guests by sweeping their home with a broom embroidered with gold thread.
His great grandfather was drafted by the Ottomans into the Janissaries, albeit a Christian unit segregated from the main part of the army. The Janissaries later became too powerful a group and were destroyed by the Ottomans.
Nicholas's father, Andrea, came to America in 1895 and went to work with his grand-uncle, Nasta Shola, on a ranch in Montana, skinning cattle for the leather industry. Once he learned English, he moved to California to join 150 to 200 Vlachs who had emigrated from the Pindus Mountains. He worked at a health spa and restaurant catering to wealthy San Francicans.
Having saved a considerable sum, he decided to purchase 18 acres of land near Los Angeles but later returned to his village, Pleasa, to marry the girl in a picture sent to him from home. He built a new home in Korce after he married Vasila Vanghele. French officers occupied the Shola household in Korce from 1916 to 1919 and it was during this time, in French hospital tents, that young Nicholas was first exposed to medicine.
The hardships of war in Europe caused the family to make their final trip to America on May 3, 1921. They settled in Bridgeport, where Nicholas attended Elias Howe Elementary School. In 1924, the family moved to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and later to Providence, where Nicholas attended Providence Technical High and graduated from Classical High School.
Upon graduation from Brown University in 1935 with honors, he applied to medical schools and experienced the ethnic bias then common against Italians and other southern European ethnic groups. He was accepted at Haneman Universtiy in Philadelphia in 1939 and after 4 years of backbreaking study, he graduated and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Army reserves. He served tours of duty at the military installation on Governors Island, New York.
He is modest about his war experience: he was taken by Coast Guard patrol boat to a Navy corvette ship in Long Island Sound and was the only medical officer aboard when the ship was struck by a German torpedo during the early morning hours of January 1, 1944. Only God knows how many men's lives he saved that day.
Upon completion of his internship at Bridgeport Hospital, he started a private practice and also performed factory employment examinations. The Society Farsarotul honored him with a testimonial and a gift of office equipment. At the end of the war, he was assigned to manage the well-baby care unit of Bridgeport Hospital and continued this for 9 years.
He married Elizabeth Shery, daughter of Dimitrie and Vasila Shery, on March 15, 1944, after they were introduced by Petra Fatse. In 1950, the tragic loss of their infant daughter led to Dr. and Mrs. Sholler's increased activity in the St. Dimitrie Church community. Their surviving children, Cynthia Conry and Richard C. Sholler, today reside with their families in Massachusetts. "Papu Shola" is proud of his four grandchildren. Dr. Sholler became medical consultant to the supervisor of the Englewood Hospital, Thomas Dumitrie, a lifelong Farsarotul friend. As his private practice grew, he completed graduate studies at Columbia Medical School extension at Montefiore Hospital in New York with a specialty in cardiology. He became Board-eligible for internal medicine and cardiology with affiliations at Bridgeport and St. Vincent's Hospitals.
His tireless work as co-chairperson of the church building fund committee led to the consecration of the new church building and hall in 1961. He and the church community are also indebted to all those who helped build the church but especially committee members Nick Nicola, Tom Tanasi, Tasi Fatsi, Tom Dumitrie, Charlie Vangel, Nick Ianuly, Nick Cipu, George Balamaci, Victoria Chanaca, Vasile Fatsi, and Victor Nastu.
While Dr. Sholler has retired from his distinguished medical career, I know his love of education and history would have made him an equally successful professor of European History at Brown or any other Ivy League University.
Dr. Sholler's distinguished service to the Society as an officer and trustee truly demonstrates his love for and dedication to our cultural heritage. We thank him for all he has done for our organization throughout the years; the Society Farsarotul and the entire Arumanian community have benefited from your unselfish contributions.
"I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that
events have controlled me."